How Do I Deal With The Press?

The other day, I was chatting with a local venture capitalist who remarked that Foundry Group has received some nice press coverage during our first year of existence.  While true and absolutely appreciated, I am smart enough to realize that the press can turn on a dime.  Who is today’s darling might very well be tomorrow’s devil.

So the question became "how do you manage the press?" to which I my initial reaction was "you can’t really manage the press, but you can get to know them and understand their world a bit." 

While some people believe that the media (and in my world this means tech / VC / startup press) is evil and out to get them, I tend to think that they just have a much different job than I do.  The irony of the relationship is that each of us have different incentives.  For instance, if you have dirty laundry and want to keep quiet, that is when the press is most interested in writing about you.  If you have something wonderful to announce, normally it’s hard to get anyone to write about it, as "puff pieces" don’t win authors any accolades.  There are exceptions, but it’s a basic rule of thumb.

This doesn’t make them evil, rather they have a job to do and their job is acquiring eyeballs.  And, unfortunately, bad news sells. 

Over the years, as a group, we’ve both been praised and punished and with some years under my belt, I’ve become much more mellow about both good and bad treatment.  It’s just part of the industry.

If there are two pieces of advice that I’d give, they would be first, get to know some of the people in the media and second, email is your best friend. 

I’ve spent some time with several of the "usual suspects" in the tech media and for the most part thought they were smart,  nice and certainly not mean spirited.  Folks like Dan Primack take their jobs very seriously, really do research their topics and have even become contributors to our industry with events like peHUB across America.  That being said, I’m sure Dan will be the first to call me out should he think that I’ve done anything "noteworthy."

Others such as Russ Garland and Dave Barry at Dow Jones spend a lot of time developing free educational panels for folks in our industry including VCs and entrepreneurs, alike. 

By getting to some people, I’ve found that I’ve mellowed about their jobs and at least know that they aren’t "out to get me" as some others fear.  Some of them are actually fun to have a beer with, even.

My largest criticism about the press are misquotations.  That is why email is your best friend.  I’d suggest having as much of your exchanges as possible over email unless you have a relationship with someone that you really trust.  I can’t even being to tell you the extent to which "reputable" news sources have misquoted folks that I know.  I’ve never known is this is just sloppiness or something more nefarious, but it’s something that everyone should be aware of. 

In summary, they have a job, you have a job, sometimes you are both aligned, but not usually.  Get to know them as people, be smart and you’ll have a better platform in which to interact with them.